With so much recent attention directed to oil prices and the upcoming provincial budget, I have had quite a lot of time to reflect on “strategies for managing with less”. Volunteer Alberta has been in discussions internally and with our stakeholders about past and impending budget cuts and their impact on the nonprofit/voluntary sector and our collective clients. In discussions with government staff, politicians, corporations, and nonprofits about their concerns and considerations, I have arrived at an overarching question: WHY?
Why would Albertans diminish their ability to lead and govern organizations, address homelessness, support people living with barriers, champion creative endeavours, increase literacy skills, engage people in the things that matter to them, and build inclusive communities?
Why do we focus on scarcity?
Why would we limit ability to contribute to community building and social wellbeing for all?
Isn’t quality of life the very reason we are such a great province?
Being a capacity builder and network of organizations, Volunteer Alberta hears about the struggles to juggle all the roles within a nonprofit, attract great people in a competitive salary market and advance the great cause nonprofit organizations were formed to serve. We also hear how much people care: people who contribute, people who serve, people being served, and people who work in the organizations that fund nonprofits.
The 2015 Provincial Government Budget is set to be released March 26, 2015. The media is full of stories about economic challenges to be addressed in Alberta. Many in the Voluntary sector have expressed concern about the impact of the budget and worry about survival in an environment of decreased funding from not only government, but also from corporate and philanthropic means. Here are some of the things I worry about:
- Can organizations navigate the volatile economic environment?
- Will decreased funding undermine our ability to engage citizens in voluntary contribution?
- Will some of the 187,000 nonprofit jobs in Alberta be lost?
- Will we lose vital services delivered by the voluntary sector when we know economic downturn increases demand for human services?
- How can we help organizations transition to a new realities in a healthy manner?
- Can we use this crisis to learn how to work more collaboratively to achieve social outcomes?
- Can the voluntary sector step into leadership and find pathways with all sectors to work better, together?
So why DO we have to continually worry about funding for organizations working toward social wellbeing, which is an outcome that crosses all sectors? After all, we are all people, talking to people, regardless of jobs, roles or positions. We can all listen, learn and act to adapt to changing environments and ensure that Alberta continues to be a province where we care about each other.
Most importantly, we can all influence someone, or many, if we continue the dialogue about the value in maintaining a healthy and resilient voluntary sector. Resources come in many currencies: time, skills, money and goods. If all Albertans – citizens, nonprofits, government, and business – contribute in a strategic and collective manner, Alberta can continue to grow into a province where citizens are engaged and society as a whole works towards building vibrant communities.
Great communities are built on a continuum of inclusion, participation, and engagement for a better quality of life for all. Strong nonprofit organizations are a platform for citizen engagement. As citizens we influence budgets and public policy by effectively using our voice.
My call to action for you today is:
Start talking more and more often about how you feel about vital stakeholder contributions to social wellbeing.
Share how you participate and contribute to community and why you think it is important.
It’s a great story that citizens, leaders, funders and decision makers must continue to hear. Let’s keep the conversation going!
Jann Beeston, Executive Director